Today, the End Violence Partnership and the Technology Coalition are awarding five organisations with grants to tackle online child sexual exploitation and abuse (CSEA). The funding will support these grantees to undertake groundbreaking research to inform both policy and practice to tackle online CSEA. 

“Investing‌ ‌in‌ ‌research‌ ‌matters.‌ ‌It‌ ‌drives‌ ‌strategic‌ ‌investment‌ ‌in‌ ‌solutions‌ ‌that‌ ‌work.”‌ ‌said‌ ‌Dr. Howard‌ ‌Taylor,‌ Executive‌ ‌Director‌ ‌of‌ ‌the‌ ‌End‌ ‌Violence‌ ‌Partnership.‌ ‌“These‌ ‌five‌ ‌projects‌ through‌ ‌the‌ ‌Tech‌ ‌Coalition‌ ‌Safe‌ ‌Online‌ ‌Research‌ ‌Fund‌ ‌will‌ ‌generate actionable ‌evidence and learning to inform the essential efforts of tech industry partners to make children safe online."

The winning grantees of this funding round include: 

  • Justice and Care, which will implement research to help the world better understand online sexual exploitation of children in the Philippines – and as a result, provide analysis and recommendations to better detect, deter and prevent this type of violence. 
  • Middlesex University, which will explore issues facing content moderators who scan online child sexual abuse material, and identify effective coping strategies currently used by content moderators to protect the mental health of those doing this work. 
  • Technological University Dublin, which will develop a deployable tool to reveal patterns of perpetrators and those they target, using state of the art machine learning (AI) techniques to advance global understanding of trends in perpetrator behaviour including grooming.
  • Universidad de los Andes, which will use artificial intelligence strategies to study the interactions between offenders of online child sexual exploitation and abuse and victims of such violence Latin America, one of the first Spanish-language tools of this nature. 
  • University of Kent, which will shed light on profiles and help-seeking behaviours of people at risk of perpetrating online sexual exploitation and abuse as well as explore the efficacy and impact of prevention interventions targeting people engaging with online abuse.

This announcement of the awards will mark the start to the work of the Research Fund grantees. Each grantee received between $120,000 to $200,000 to fund their research. This work continues to build on five years of earlier Safe Online investments in countries across the world. 

 “This research will accelerate our understanding of online child sexual exploitation and abuse, giving room for the creation of new policies, tech innovations, and protections that keep children safe online,” said Sean Litton, Executive Director of the Technology Coalition. 

This collaboration is part of the Technology Coalition’s Project Protect, which seeks to prevent and eradicate online child sexual exploitation and abuse through technology innovation, collective action, research, knowledge sharing, and increased accountability. The Tech Coalition Safe Online Research Fund is an essential part of that process, supporting actionable research that will lead to critical innovation in how we protect children online.  

MEET THE GRANTEES 

Justice and Care

Understanding Traffickers and Pathways to Offending: Analysis and recommendations to better detect, deter, and prevent Online Sexual Exploitation of Children in the Philippines 

Justice and Care is a United Kingdom-based non-governmental organisation that works with law enforcement officers to rescue victims of human trafficking, protect at-risk communities, and dismantle criminal networks. With support from the Tech Coalition Safe Online Research Fund and in partnership with International Justice Mission (IJM), Dublin City University and De La Salle University in the Philippines, Justice and Care is launching a study to help the world better understand online sexual exploitation of children in the Philippines – and as a result, provide analysis and recommendations to better detect, deter and prevent this type of violence.   

To do so, Justice and Care will explore the profiles of those who perpetrate and facilitate online sexual exploitation of children, interviewing convicted offenders, key informants, and others. This analysis will fill a gap in global research into online child exploitation of children and shed light on the “supply-side” of such violence in a country known to be an epicenter of live-streamed child sexual abuse. Ultimately, this research will seek to inform practical strategies and enhance industry, prevention and law enforcement response to the issue.   

Middlesex University 

Invisible risks: Combating secondary trauma to safeguard children 

We know that online child sexual abuse material is highly damaging to children. But today, little primary research exists about the impact such material has on content moderators – individuals who are charged with constantly surveilling and removing traumatic images and videos of child sexual abuse.   

Through this project, researchers at Middlesex University, in collaboration with INHOPE and other sectors specific organisations, will explore and quantify the issues facing content moderators, specifically as it relates to their exposure of traumatic child sexual abuse material. They will also identify coping strategies currently used by content moderators, and highlight what works – and what does not work – for individuals and organisations that do this work. Results of this study will be used to develop a pilot intervention to support and protect the mental health of content moderators. 

Technological University Dublin

N-Light: An innovative application to uncover patterns of online child sexual exploitation through national helpline and hotline analysis of caseloads 

Through this project, Technological University Dublin will develop a deployable tool that reveals the patterns of adults perpetrating online child sexual abuse and the children who are affected by such violence. By using advanced artificial intelligence machine learning for text, the study will advance global understanding of trends in perpetrator behaviour (conduct, contact, content) – including grooming – and debunk strategies and tactics used to lure and coerce children into sexually exploitative acts.  

N-Light will be created in collaboration with two essential partner organisations, the Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (ISPCC) and Hotline.ie, the Irish national centre combatting illegal content online, specifically child sexual abuse material (CSAM) and activities relating to online child sexual exploitation (OCSE). Once finalized, N-Light will be tested by both partner organisations, with the intention to make it available to other hotlines in the INHOPE network and child agencies for their use, which would in turn lead to an enriched, more robust and representative data sample and analysis capacity. In addition, the data and insights will serve to better understand and conceptualise victim and perpetrator behaviour, patterns and activity, ultimately informing the further development of evidence-based solutions that would have the potential of transformative impact in tackling this heinous crime against children. 

Universidad de los Andes

Prevention of online child sexual exploitation and abuse in Latin America and evaluation of mitigation strategies with Artificial Intelligence 

Through support from the Tech Coalition Safe Online Research Fund, Universidad de los Andes in partnership with Programa Aulas en Paz will use artificial intelligence strategies and tools to study the language and patterns of interactions between potential and current offenders of online child sexual exploitation and abuse and current or potential victims of such violence. At the same time, researchers will explore strategies designed to mitigate such abuse, such as parental mediation and industry-created and deployed protection tools.   

As a result, the study’s findings will be used to develop artificial intelligence tools to analyse interaction patterns between aggressors and victims of online sexual exploitation and abuse. These strategies, which will be designed for adaptability across contexts, will then be channeled to law enforcement agencies in the region.  The project will ensure applications for families, industries, and governments to better protect children online, including and especially for organisations that process information related to online child sexual abuse.   

University of Kent

Understanding and improving help-seeking by people at risk of perpetrating online child sexual exploitation and abuse

 The Centre of Research and Education in Forensic Psychology at the University of Kent is a group of leading psychologists working on offending behaviour, including sexual exploitation and abuse. In partnership with the Lucy Faithfull Foundation and researchers based in South Africa, Mexico, the US and UK, this project will shed light on the psychological processes through which people at risk of online sexual exploitation and abuse may instead seek professional support. In addition, the group will explore the efficacy and impact of prevention interventions targeting people engaging with online abuse. Overall, the project will ask a fundamental – and often overlooked – question: who seeks help for child sexual exploitation and abuse, and can we get more people to do so before committing a crime?   

This project will expand the group’s existing model of psychological predicators of help-seeking for people at risk of offending, and examine how to amplify the psychological factors that support such help-seeking behaviours. At the same time, the project will also look into the psychological barriers that prevent help-seeking, and explore ways to weaken those barriers in the digital sphere.  

ABOUT THE END VIOLENCE FUND & SAFE ONLINE 

End Violence is the world’s largest non-governmental funder dedicated to ending online CSEA. From our launch in 2016 until today, through our Safe Online area of work, we have invested $47 million into 55 projects that work at national, regional and global levels across 70 countries to prevent and respond to online child sexual exploitation and abuse. Part of our work involves stimulating collaboration and knowledge-sharing across the world. 

We regularly engage with major players in the technology field, ensuring that in their business decisions, children are considered upfront – not as an afterthought. As our fund investments gather more data, evidence and knowledge about the solutions that work, we can continue to advocate for children’s safety.

Learn more about our investments to keep children Safe Online

ABOUT THE TECHNOLOGY COALITION & PROJECT PROTECT

The Technology Coalition was formed in 2006 when industry leaders came together to fight online CSEA. TC believes that working together can have a greater impact in combating these horrific crimes than working alone. 

The Technology Coalition brings together companies across the technology industry. It supports companies of all sizes, including those just establishing their child safety protocols and processes. Together, TC members tackle risks to online child safety through sharing best practices, mentorship and coordinated efforts to improve the detection and reporting of sexual abuse imagery and other exploitative practices that put children at risk.

In June 2020, the Technology Coalition (TC) announced Project Protect: a plan to prevent and eradicate online child sexual exploitation and abuse (CSEA) through a renewed investment and ongoing commitment to work seeking to combat online CSEA in different ways. End Violence is the lead partner for the research arm of Project Protect.